Traveling Is Among the Most Popular Activities for Seniors. These Tips Can Make It Easier—and Safer

Senior couple traveling

“What are you going to do when you retire?”

This is usually one of the first questions people hear when they’re getting ready to leave the workforce. And one of the most common replies is: “Travel!”

For some, retirement represents an opportunity to finally take those adventures they’ve dreamed of for years. Maybe they’ve always wanted to visit every state in the U.S. Or go on a photo safari in the Serengeti. Or take a cruise to Southeast Asia.

For those who’ve always been fond of traveling, retirement may give them the chance to explore new places and learn about other cultures for as long as they want. Vacations no longer have to be limited to two or three weeks.

How to Prepare for a Trouble-Free Trip

If traveling is high on your priority list, these tips can help you plan for a smooth, worry-free trip, whether you’re hitting the road to go see the grandkids or taking a flight halfway around the world.

  1. Start planning your trip early.

While there’s nothing wrong with a last-minute decision to take a road trip, other types of travel require more forethought. That’s especially true if you’ll be traveling to another country.

For one thing, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to get a passport or renew the one you have, if necessary. For another, you may need certain vaccinations, and not just for COVID-19. Sometimes it’s necessary to be vaccinated as much as six weeks before you leave so your immune system has time to work.

Early planning also gives you time to investigate lots of options. There are many different types of vacations for seniors. Think about the following questions:

  • Should you consider a cruise for seniors who are single?
  • Would you like a traveling companion to share the experience with?
  • Do you want the flexibility of either postponing your departure date or extending your return date if you decide you’d like to stay longer?

Give yourself plenty of time to plan the details. You can still be spontaneous once you get to where you’re going. But having the travel arrangements and other basic preparations taken care of well in advance will help you avoid issues that could interfere with enjoying your trip.

A Note About Pandemic-Related Travel Changes

The pandemic has changed travel procedures in many ways, and that’s true for airlines, cruise lines, railways and other modes of transportation. So, even if you’re a seasoned traveler, if you haven’t taken a trip for the last few years, it’s a good idea to find out what may be different now.

  1. Consider traveling off-season.

Families typically travel in the summer or during school holidays. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, you may find that rates are lower if you take your trip during off-season times. Usually, that’s in the late spring (in April or early May) or late summer/early fall (September through October).

Depending on your destination, it may also be less crowded during off-season times. That’s almost always an advantage.

  1. Check your supply of medications.

Vaccinations aren’t the only health-related issue to think about when planning a trip.

If you take prescription medications, you’ll want to make sure you have enough to last the entire trip, plus a few extra in case you’re delayed. If you’ll be gone several months, check with your doctor and health insurance company about coordinating an extra supply.

If you’ll be traveling to a different time zone, be sure to ask your doctor about when to take your medications. Specifically, should you take them at the same time you normally would if you were at home, or should you switch to the local time zone?

Keep your prescriptions in their original bottle with the label attached. Place them in a quart-size plastic bag if you’ll be flying, and pack them in your carry-on bag. If possible, get a copy of each prescription from your doctor to take with you.

While you’re at it, get a written statement from your doctor(s) about any health conditions you have. Your doctor should note any implanted devices you have, such as a pacemaker or artificial joint replacements. This can make it easier to get through security screenings.

Also be sure to make a list of the contact information for all of your physicians to take with you, just in case. And it doesn’t hurt to leave a copy of all this documentation with a friend or family member before you leave.

Find Out About Your Insurance Coverage

Even if you’ll only be traveling across state lines, it’s smart to check with your health insurer to see what your policy covers and what you would need to do to access care while you’re away.

If you’ll be traveling outside of the U.S., you might also think about getting travel insurance, as Medicare only provides limited coverage in other countries. Travel insurance can also protect your financial investment in the trip, in case you need to cancel  or cut it short for some reason.

  1. Take your mobility into account.

Traveling can involve a lot of walking, and sometimes in a hurry. Older adults may find it more challenging to navigate airports, endure long flights or keep up the pace during a guided walking tour.

Even if you rely on an assistive device such as a wheelchair to get around, know that choices are available for vacations for seniors with limited mobility.

Certainly, flying is still an option, though it’s wise to plan accordingly when making your flight arrangements. Check with the airline to see if it offers passenger assistance. If not, you may be able to request skycap assistance at the departures curb. Knowing ahead of time will alleviate stress.

For longer flights—even if you have no mobility concerns or known health issues—try to stand up and stretch every few hours. If possible, walk up and down the aisle. This may help lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. That’s when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, most commonly in the legs. The clot can break loose and lodge in one of your lungs. DVT sometimes occurs weeks after traveling.

Alternatives to Flying

Cruises and road trips may be more appealing vacations for seniors with limited mobility. Traveling by car gives you the option of stopping for a break whenever you want. If you take a cruise, most of your time will be spent on the ship, but you’ll have opportunities to experience a variety of locales when you’re in port.

Some companies, including certain cruise lines and resorts, offer all-inclusive vacations for seniors. In these instances, you pay one price that covers your lodging, meals and planned activities.

If you’ll be traveling alone, you might want to do an online search for senior single vacations. In some cases, you may avoid paying what’s known as a “single supplement.” Many hotels and cruise lines normally book their rooms and cabins for double occupancy. Travelers who want private accommodations may have to pay extra—anywhere from 10% to 100% more. That can add thousands of dollars to the cost of your trip.

You can also avoid paying the single supplement by finding someone to travel with, as long as you don’t mind sharing the same room or cabin.

The Beauty of Travel and Senior Living

When you live in a retirement community like Heron’s Key, you don’t have to worry about your home while you’re away. You can just lock the door and go. No need to arrange for someone to check on your home or take care of the yardwork.

In fact, the ease of traveling is one of the main reasons that some older adults choose to live in a community like Heron’s Key. For example, John and Linda Krouse sold their house several years ago to travel the lower 48. But they decided before they left that they were coming home to a senior living community much like ours.

The Krouses have lived here for about 2½ years. These days, when they “get an itch to travel,” they appreciate being able to just get in the car and be on their way.

“Now, we don’t have to worry about getting the grass mowed while we’re gone,” John said. “It’s a different kind of freedom. It’s a confidence, a ‘go without any fear’ type of thing. You don’t have to worry about your home. It’s just another advantage of being here.”

Residents in assisted living enjoy a change of scenery, too, and frequently venture out on the day trips we plan. Fortunately, we’ve been able to resume planning more of those, now that most of the pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted.

Why Not Add Heron’s Key to Your Itinerary?

Not all retirement communities in Washington state are alike. If you’d like to know more about the Heron’s Key lifestyle and how living here could complement your plans for traveling, contact us.

We’re here to answer your questions — and if you’d like to experience Heron’s Key firsthand, we’ll be glad to make the arrangements!